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AREA236's Purpose

Yosuke Inukai, Certified Public Accountant

                                                                                                                                             

1. Underlying Crisis Awareness

Japan's population peaked in 2008 and has been declining since, with an increasing aging rate. Various population projections exist, but assuming a pessimistic view of the birth rate, the current Japanese population of 120 million in 2024 is predicted to drop to 100 million by 2040. This 100 million is reminiscent of Japan's population in 1970, the year of the previous Osaka Expo. At that time, the proportion of people aged 65 and over (aging rate) was 7%, but it is projected to reach 38% by 2040. Even if population decline can be delayed by 5 or 10 years, the Japanese population excluding foreigners will inevitably fall below 100 million.

To maintain the current level of social benefits, an enormous amount of funding will be required for pensions, medical care, nursing care, and social welfare, necessitating tax increases and resulting in reduced take-home income. As the population decreases and ages, the average consumption per capita will also decrease, leading to reduced corporate capital investment and housing investment, with money flowing overseas to areas with growing populations. With government spending already restrained, local government finances will become more strained, leading to the closure of public services and prompting young people in rural areas to move to urban areas or abroad. Young people who can speak foreign languages are likely to choose to work overseas for higher wages, potentially encouraged by a weaker yen.

2. Aging Society and Smart Seniors

In a rapidly declining population and aging society, a situation where elderly people do not consume will not sustain the economy. Although inbound revenue from foreign tourists is expected, the problem of over-tourism emerged when Japan received 31.88 million foreign tourists in 2019. In contrast, France and Spain accepted 89.32 million and 83.50 million foreign tourists, respectively, with well-developed tourism infrastructure. Japan also needs to foster local tourism bases and strengthen tourism infrastructure. However, excessive expectations on inbound revenue are prohibited.

In an aging society, it is crucial for the large elderly population to earn and consume. If the elderly only have pension income, it is natural for them to try to curb consumption. I, too, will turn 70 in 2040 and am seriously considering this responsibility. As a way to earn money while living in rural areas, I focus on "earning through the internet." By utilizing SNS and AI, I aim to become a "smart senior" who can earn income without overexertion. This concept, which did not exist in the Showa era without the internet, can still be adopted by middle-aged people if they start now. It is important to start while our minds are still sharp. For company employees, it is advisable to prepare as a side job, and AI will support this. AI can help bridge the gaps in physical strength and speed, becoming an essential tool for becoming a smart senior. At that time, expressing one's products or services externally will be necessary. Influencers and various creators who can communicate to many people will find their significance. This is the economy driven by creators, known as the "creator economy."

 

3. Promoting the Creator Economy

The creator economy is a new economic model where individuals, who are also consumers, utilize their creativity for economic activities. As a certified public accountant and tax accountant, I have supported creators. I will continue to leverage my network with specialists such as lawyers and administrative scriveners to solve legal and tax issues faced by creators, providing an environment where they can focus on creative activities with peace of mind.

The creator economy is rapidly growing overseas. In the West, for example, individuals have more opportunities to distribute digital content globally and earn revenue. The creator economy supports individuals active in diverse fields and has the power to revitalize the economy. In Japan, it is essential to adopt this international trend and aim for the development of the creator economy.

AREA236 possesses over 60 million yen worth of equipment and facilities, as well as over 7,000 retro items, which can be connected to business ideas. This allows creators to produce creative promotions and businesses from new perspectives.

 

4. The Era of Going Viral Globally

The ability to effectively express Japan’s wonderful products, services, technologies, landscapes, and daily habits as businesses to the world will be Japan’s lifeline amid a declining population. Even "ordinary things and objects" that Japanese people may not notice might sell in the global market of 8 billion people. In the Showa era, targeting the world required paying enormous advertising fees to local advertising agencies, something only large companies could afford. However, today, anyone has an equal opportunity to "go viral globally" using SNS. Thus, even small local stores or small and medium-sized enterprises in depopulating rural areas, or general consumers, can do business with the world if they can effectively express their businesses.

Young people who want to continue living in rural areas may not need to leave their hometowns. They can suffice by traveling to urban areas or abroad on business trips. The "language barrier" that existed until now is also breaking down. Thanks to AI, the accuracy of translation software has dramatically improved. Therefore, even if one is not good at speaking or listening in English or Chinese, it is now possible to do business quickly with the world by real-time translation of Japanese websites, chats, and emails. The key will be what to sell to the world and what will sell. Interaction with foreigners who provide advice and ideas is also important because they point out things that Japanese people may not notice.

Age does not matter in business. Even elementary school students can do business with children around the world. Elderly people can do business with elderly people around the world. And creators are essential when spreading this globally. In that case, it might be necessary to ask not only Japanese creators but also foreign creators.

 

5. Foreigners and Japan: The Katakana Project

Amid a rapidly decreasing and aging population, Japan is beginning to feel the need to coexist with foreigners and expand exports. This is the most exciting time since the "opening of the country" during the Meiji Restoration. Thus, foreigners have the opportunity not only to work in Japan but also to discover high-quality products and services that can only be found in Japan and sell them in their home countries. However, most Japanese people only speak Japanese. Therefore, even a little Japanese-speaking ability can be a significant advantage for foreigners in business. Now is truly the night before the gold rush.

Japanese is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world. It combines 46 hiragana characters, 46 katakana characters, 2,136 commonly used kanji characters, 4,500 onomatopoeia, and 26 alphabet letters, with the addition of unique honorifics making Japanese even more complex. However, with the evolution of translation software, reading and writing have become relatively lower priorities for foreigners. Rather, the ability to respond instantly in conversations—speaking and listening—is important. Extreme as it may sound, knowing characters is unnecessary, but in reality, characters are used to master the Japanese necessary for conversation. In that case, katakana is easier than hiragana, and learning only katakana is sufficient for conversations. Roman letters are not recommended for learning Japanese because their pronunciation varies by country and does not guarantee alignment with Japanese pronunciation. Learning "kanji," which is not necessary for conversations, can be postponed.

Generally, even if one passes the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1, conversation skills are often lacking because speaking is not a test subject. Japanese children first learn to speak and listen, but foreign language education for Japanese is different. It aims to pass the JLPT. The same reason Japanese people cannot speak or listen in English. Therefore, the Katakana Project emphasizes correct pronunciation and supports foreigners in mastering natural Japanese conversations used among Japanese people, not the unnatural conversations in textbooks. It is also essential for listening to anime without dubbing. Through the Katakana Project, we aim to help foreigners interested in Japan maximize their business opportunities in Japan.

 

6. "Treasures" Hidden in the Past

Current AI relies on knowledge on the internet, but valuable information exists that does not appear online, such as old products, books, and knowledge and experiences only in human brains. Past products can lead to big hits today. Japan, the oldest country in the world, must have many "treasures" hidden within. For example, Edo period tools might be sold as new camping gear, or Meiji and Taisho era recipes might double a restaurant's sales. AREA236 collected over 7,000 retro items because they contain hints that can be applied to business. Also, interaction with the elderly is not volunteer work but aims to extract their know-how and build businesses together. Their experiences and memories are considered treasures, which we call the "new reminiscence method."

 

7. Efforts for Dementia Prevention

AREA236 is not only about supporting creators but also about efforts to prevent dementia among the elderly in the community. These efforts will be provided using the PWYW (Pay What You Want) method.

  1. Visual Function and Cognitive Function Training Machine (Supreme Vision L):

    • Aims to improve or maintain reflexes, memory, and effective visual fields.

  2. Daily Interaction with Young Generations and Foreigners:

    • Promotes mutual understanding and shares flexible thinking and values, reducing stress and loneliness.

  3. New Reminiscence Method Using Retro Items:

    • By seeing and touching retro items, while reminiscing about the past, creating new businesses with young generations and foreigners stimulates the brain positively.

Preventing dementia is crucial for securing the workforce and reducing social security costs. If the elderly remain healthy and active, society as a whole can maintain its vitality. A country where this is possible can overcome an aging society. Not only Japan but also China, Korea, and Europe are entering aging societies. As similar issues surface, Japan's response to its advanced aging society is attracting global attention. The 2025 Osaka Expo aims to address this, but its intent is not well communicated even within Japan.

 

8. The Perception Gap about Creativity

Strangely, Japanese people do not consider themselves creative. This is not modesty but their genuine opinion. However, when asked by foreigners, Japan is considered a creative country. I became interested in this perception gap. In Adobe's surveys conducted in 2012 and 2016, Japan was evaluated as the most creative country among the surveyed countries. Simultaneously, Japanese people rated Japan as the least creative country. Additionally, Japan ranked lowest in the percentage of people who believed that creative activities impact corporate sales. This low awareness of creative activities may be a reason for Japan's low economic growth.

 

9. AREAx Concept

To promote the creator economy, I believe I need to take risks and take action first. That is AREA236. It took nine years of preparation since 2015. I hope similar spaces supporting creators, known as AREAx, will spread across Japan.

For that, AREA236 needs to succeed as a project first. Success means being financially sustainable. To allow creators and aspiring creators who lack funds to use necessary equipment and facilities, I believe the PWYW (Pay What You Want) method is the only way.

10. Challenges of the PWYW Method

The PWYW method is a pricing system where users determine the payment amount based on their economic situation and the service's value. This lowers the economic barrier and provides more people with opportunities for creative activities. However, past PWYW methods often failed due to unstable cash inflows. To compensate for this instability, AREA236 believes it is essential to secure stable fixed income.

 

11. Specific Measures

  1. Manufacturing and Selling T-Shirts:

    • Utilize AREA236’s T-shirt printing machine to manufacture and sell original T-shirts.

    • Use the profits for operating costs to ensure financial stability.

  2. Introducing a fixed charge membership system:

    • Offer fixed charge members priority use of equipment and facilities and other benefits.

    • Secure a fixed source of income and aim for sustainable operations.

The initial investment will be borne by Asconnect Co.,Ltd. so that creators can start their activities without financial burden. We will conduct profitable activities to secure stable income necessary for running costs and achieve long-term sustainable operations.

 

12. My will

Such activities have been said to differ from the primary duties of a certified public accountant. However, as a numbers expert, I can calculate that this country will decline if we do not take action now. Numbers are brutal. However, just as our predecessors rose from the ashes after the war, it might be time for us to get serious. To pass on this wonderful country inherited from our predecessors to the next generation in good shape, I will make my last challenge as an Osaka merchant. If no one shows interest and these devices and equipment are not utilized even with the PWYW method, I intend to sell the equipment and retire as a CPA. There is no appeal in a CPA who cannot deliver on their promises. But I believe in the potential of Japan and Osaka. With this determination, I will open in Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, my hometown, on May 15, 2024.

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